2016 Olympiad to Baku (and other results of the General Assembly)
The 2016 World Chess Olympiad will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan. This was the result of a vote at the FIDE General Assembly last Saturday.
The FIDE Executive Board at the General Assembly | All photos courtesy of the FIDE & the Istanbul Olympiad
Again, we look back and summarize the most important events of the 83rd FIDE Congress and General Assembly. In this second and last article (read the first here), we report on the Gligoric award, CNC, Agon, the French cheating case, the discussion about draws, the Olympiad 2016 bid and the aftermath of the CAS court cases.
After all the friendliness that was shown on the first day of the General Assembly, there were a number of heated debates on the second and third. But let's start with something positive: the FIDE General Assembly accepted the proposal of the Serbian Chess Federation to establish an award for fair-play, named after the legendary grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric, who recently passed away. The proposal was initially accepted by the Congress Commission, which drafted the regulations which would set the criteria for issuing the award. As the proposal of the Serbian Chess Federation stated:
Grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric got the fine reputation not only for his results and successes, but even more because of his fair-play manners towards his opponents. He highly respected his chess rivals. Therefore, he never looked at the chess game only through the eyes of a simple result. His approach was almost philosophical, because of his main principle – I am not playing against a man, but against chess pieces.
We're not sure if the three letters "CNC" ring a bell, but this company still has its logo at the top of the FIDE website right next to FIDE's so they must be important, right? Back in February Chess Network Company, as they're fully named, signed an agreement with FIDE for the next World Championship cycles, together with Andrew Paulson's Agon. While Agon will be responsible for the organization, CNC has the "media, web and software rights".
It has never been very clear what CNC is actually doing, and Chairman Georgios Makropoulos reassured the General Assembly that the contract with CNC is only valid in case of a concrete project. With a presentation to the General Assembly CNC tried to make their (quite ambitious) plans more concrete.
They spoke of a "MYFIDE" project which should make chess "more lucrative and financially efficient". They'll be "integrating" websites of their "partners" and create a "web portal" which will "utilize the opportunities which are unavailable to existing chess websites", including a playing zone which will compete with existing playing zones. All in all, according to the CNC spokesman it would mean
lower unit cost for us; zero cost for our partners. Our partners will be able to earn even if they do not have websites of their own.
Asked how they would fight cheating, by using computers to play online chess, the CNC spokesman answered:
To the best of my knowledge using computers is not illegal.
Then the bidding procedure for the 2013 Candidates was discussed. The Presidential Board had approved Agon's bid in February, and sent the minutes to the GA for ratification. There were also bids from the Bulgarian and Azerbaijan federations and as representative of the former, Silvio Danailov had protested. At his website the full text of the protest can be found (and some "extra information" as well).
When this matter was discussed at the General Assembly, accidently Silvio Danailov left the room for a few minutes. In this timeframe Makropoulos decided that first the vote for the ratification of the contract with Agon would take place, and only then Danailov's protest would be discussed. Not all delegates were happy with this "move order".
Andrew Paulson, the Director of Agon, then gave a presentation about the Agon project. He explained the general idea of trying to get chess more "mediatized" and to develop corporate sponsorships based on a serious business plan.
Ilya Levitov, the representative of the Russian Chess Federation, noted that the first Grand Prix tournament is about to start (the opening ceremony is on September 20th) and asked who is the current sponsor. Paulson pointed out that the tournament was supposed to be held in Chelyabinsk and the sponsor would be the Chelyabinsk governor.
Unfortunately the Russian Chess Federation wouldn't allow us to hold the event in Chelyabinsk and therefore we lost the money from Chelyabinsk. I have paid 500,000 Euros of my own money and we have to do it in London...
Levitov then interrupted Paulson:
The governor of Chelyabinsk didn't know anything about this tournament
Questions should be asked to FIDE because I have a contract with FIDE and they know the details, I don't.
Paulson also made clear that the first two GPs, in London and Tashkent, won't be much different in terms of organisation and presentation; Agon plans to start the big "chess makeover" only at the London Candidates in March 2013.
Nigel Short, representative of the English Chess Federation, asked about the capitalization of Agon. Paulson explained that it was founded in Jersey "as there won't be any specific headquarters". The company is owned 100% by Paulson himself. The contract (here in PDF) is for 11 years; Agon is not expecting to earn money in first five years or so.
The agreement between FIDE and AGON was approved by a vast voting majority. After the ratification, when Danailov had returned to his seat, he said that it was "very unfair" that the contract was already ratified before his protest was discussed. Makropoulos then asked:
Do I need to check whether you are there before I say something?
Danailov then said that the Bulgarian Chess Federation will sue FIDE in CAS. Makropoulos then asked the GA to vote whether their decision to give the Candidates bid to Agon was correct. The GA approved.
Silvio Danailov: "We'll sue FIDE"
French cheating case
Then the Chairman of the Ethics Commission Roberto Rivello addressed the GA, and the discussion that followed focused on the French cheating case. Nigel Short urged the Presidential Board to annul not only Sebastien Feller's individual results, but also correctly change the team results of France at the 2010 Olympiad. A committee was established to decide what exactly will be done.
On the second day the Technical Committee gave its report, and suddenly a big discussion started about the abolition of the draw offer by mutual agreement. This lasted for about half an hour, even though the subject wasn't on the agenda.
French delegate Leo Battesti emotionally defended the abolition of the draw offer as being "the future of chess". Makropoulos gave the word to Nigel Short (as "the strongest player in the room") and the English GM's reaction was that although he understood the reasons, he was not in favour.
Susan Polgar then joined Battesti and she later posted her proposal on her blog as well:
At official FIDE events, only with a judge’s approval should one be able to offer a draw. The judges should only approve/allow the draw offer in case of a three time repetition, the “50 move rule” came to effect or "an endgame has been reached where the draw outcome is so obvious that even a 1600 rated player would be very likely to draw even a GM.
The President of the Chess Federation of Jamaica, Ian Wilkinson, also was in strong favour of abolishing draws altogether. Makropoulos finished this debate by stating that all suggestions would be taken into account and the subject would be discussed further. Geurt Gijssen, the chairman of the FIDE Rules and Tournament Regulations Committee, pointed out that already right now the rules make it possible that organizers can limit draw offers from move 60, or abolish them altogether.
FIDE received three bids for hosting the 2016 Olympiad: from Tallinn (Estonia), Albena (Bulgaria) and Baku (Azerbaijan). This was first discussed in the Executive Board in February. At the General Assembly it became clear that Tallinn had withdrawn their bid, and that Albena had not included the organization of the 2015 World Cup in their bid.
Makropoulos first stated that it was written that FIDE can only discuss bids that include the World Cup organized by the same federation a year before the Olympiad. Therefore the Board's recommendation was to do a vote on just one bid: the one from Baku (which, incidentally, included a stunning 15 million total budget).
Representing the Bulgarian bid, Silvio Danailov then took the microphone and said that there should be a voting procedure on all bids anyway. Nigel Short agreed to this. FIDE Vice President Ali Nihat Yazici then emphasized that "rules should be followed", and that therefore only one serious bid was left. Armenian delegate Smbat Lputian then tried to convince the GA to reject the Baku bid because of the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The presentation of the Baku 2016 bid
Makropoulos insisted that first there needed to be a vote on whether the recommendation of the Executive Board, to only vote for the Baku bid, would be approved. This vote was performed and approved.
Then it was discussed what to do with the Armenia issue. An Azerbaijani minister present, who gave a presentation about the Baku bid, pointed out that at the 2008 Youth Judo Championships there were Armenian participants "without any problems" and that 2016 is still "far away". Someone asked about extra security measures and the minister then stated that the Armenian team will be welcome, that they will be granted visas and that there won't be a problem with their security.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov then supported the bid personally with a spontaneous speech, which was applauded by the GA, and the bid was approved unanimously. However, despite the promises from the Azeri minister, chances are high that in 2016 the team that won gold at three of the last four Olympiads will not participate.
Undoubtedly as a result of the Evgeny Surov situation, the Executive Board suggested to the General Assembly to create a commission for journalists. Makropoulos explained that besides journalists that have official press cards, there are "many people claiming that they are journalists". The suggestion was that the journalists will be registered at FIDE and the formation of the journalist commission was approved. It remains to be seen what this FIDE registration will exactly mean for journalists.
CAS court cases
FIDE Treasurer Nigel Freeman then spoke, and explained that according to CAS, FIDE's lawyer costs should be reclaimed from the federations that sued them. Freeman:
I would be grateful if these federations could explain how I do this.
This started a heated debate, and among others Garry Kasparov (not present at this meeting) was accused of causing financial damage to FIDE up to a million dollars. The peaceful atmosphere of the first day was gone.
Ali Nihat Yazici suggested to the federations to donate to CACDEC (the Committee for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries) a certain amount, and this was supported by FIDE official Geoffrey Borg. A few delegates of smaller countries also supported FIDE by stating that the federations should somehow pay back the money.
Leo Battesti, delegate of the French Chess Federation, suggested that the federations ask Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov to contribute to the money FIDE has lost.
Update September 17, 2012: This information is incorrect, as Mr Battesti informed us. Instead he intervened to ask for a postponement of the debate. He first wanted to have the delegations and the players involved present, then make a point and then discuss with the FIDE Executive Board to come to an agreement, "all in a state of openness".
A reading of the information provided in the interview even Garry Kasparov, I think my iniative was timely. It will clarify the situation at the next GA in a less passionate and with all the information.
In an emotional speech FIDE official Ignatius Leong then urged the five federations to apologize.
Ali Nihat Yazici then made his proposal more concrete. He suggested a 5000 Euro payment to CACDEC by each federation plus 2500 per year to FIDE for a period of 40 years (!) without interest rate.
Then Kirsan Ilyumzhinov gave a long speech in which he declared that a Russian company had refrained from continuing sponsoring FIDE's Chess in Schools project because it thought that, having spent one million on lawyers, FIDE was a rich federation. He also took the opportunity to remind the General Assembly that he spent millions of dollars in events with Karpov and Kasparov.
FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos (l.) and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at the General Assembly
Georgios Makropoulos decided to continue the discussion at the next General Assembly, giving the federations the opportunity to speak to Karpov and Kasparov, and decide upon a possible apology.
Ali Nihat Yazici then, as expected, withdrew his proposal which suggested that the seven federations that sued FIDE should be banned altogether. He admitted that it was merely a way of being able to talk about the matter.
The debate about the costs of the CAS court cases made one thing clear: that there are still two sides within FIDE that are diametrically opposed. There are the big federations, who together form a majority in terms of number of chess players, and who are not happy with the current FIDE leadership. And there's the bigger number of smaller federations who feel that FIDE was stolen a large amount of money, and who now demand an apology. This situation is not likely to change soon.
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